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The “other” truth about membership sites...and why technology matters

Kyle Leavitt

The other day, I was browsing through membership site articles when I came across a blog post that grabbed my attention.

The title of the blog post was: "The Truth About Membership Sites"

And since I wanted to know the “truth”, I read it.

Bottom line, the author was frustrated about receiving membership site advice from people who had never created membership sites. He claimed that nearly EVERY person - who has written about membership sites - has never owned a profitable site themselves. (He didn't state where he got his information.)

But regardless of the author’s opinion, what I found interesting was the 78 comments his post generated. Comments like:

“Maybe someday someone will audit the web somehow and expose all these “six-figure geniuses.”

and

“All I have heard is the hype, which is probably coming from those you mention - that clamor about how good a business model it is but have not yet done anything about it.”

That’s 78 people who have been convinced that courses and membership sites aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

However, I must tell you that I have a completely different point of view.

Let me share with you my “truth”. A truth that was obtained by:

  1. Owning and growing a subscription-based Knowledge Commerce Platform
  2. Working with thousands of small business owners who actually have profitable courses and/or membership sites

Ultimately, you’ll have to come to your own conclusions. But here is what I have experienced.

There’s No Better Time to Start

Sales from knowledge products (courses and membership sites) are on the rise. In 2016, digital courses reached $46 billion in sales. That number is expected to increase to $325 billion by 2025. Leaving plenty of opportunity for business owners to make a decent profit.

Where else are you going to see 700% growth in less than 10 years?

Of course, right now, we’ve got to address the elephant in the room. COVID-19.

For many, the pandemic serves as an excuse not to create courses or membership sites. After all, who has money to invest in knowledge products? (The reality is that there are a lot of people with disposable income available. Because they aren’t going out or traveling as much. But that can be a topic for another day.)

Or, you could look at this from another point of view. With “normal” business being disrupted, courses and membership sites add a critical, second revenue stream. Because the information in a course or site can be accessed from the safety of a person’s own home. In fact, the most common pivoting businesses have done over the last 6 months is take their offerings online.

Sure, for some businesses things have slowed down a bit. But rest assured that knowledge businesses are alive and well. They will continue to grow rapidly. And you need to get in on this.

If They Want It, You Can Sell It

Truthfully, we’re not fans of the cheesy, “6-figure expert” tactics either. You won’t catch us standing in front of a Lamborghini telling people we make a million dollars a year working 1 day a week. But we’re not about to let a handful of silly marketers steer us away from an incredible opportunity.

If your community wants your offering, then you have potential to make several thousand dollars (or more) a month.

But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the naysayers have never had an idea that their community was willing to pay for.

Or maybe they view courses and membership sites as get-rich-quick schemes and have never done any market research.  

Like any other business, knowledge businesses only succeed when there is a demand in the market for the offering.

It seems ironic that courses on “How to Create a Course” seem to be everywhere right now. (And yes, there are definitely those who are trying to sell you their course with the infamous lamborghini shot.) But they exist because the demand for them exists. Small businesses are starting to realize that courses and sites are a viable way to grow and scale their companies faster.

However, your question should not be “are these ‘6-figure experts’ telling the truth” but rather “what does my community want.”

Once you figure that out...who cares what other course creators are doing? Or how much they’re making. Your focus will be on meeting the needs of your prospects with your own knowledge products.

And you’d be surprised how profitable even the most specific niches can be. Within our own community, we have course creators who:

  • Clear negative energy fields through an online process
  • Curate public documents for construction companies
  • Teach people in Ghana how to pass English tests
  • Instruct kids 4-8 to play golf more effectively

All specific. All profitable. No hype.  

Having said that, we’d like to share...

Why Knowledge Products Are Worth the Excitement

Why is there so much hype around membership sites and courses? Anyone that’s ever created one (or even thought about creating one) knows there’s work involved. You’ve got to have content to fill your course or site.

And yes, that could take some time. However…

  1. It doesn’t take a LOT of content to start making a profit. With a single piece of content, like a webinar or really great ebook, you could start selling. With a handful of pieces, you would potentially have enough to sell a course or membership. The key is to start selling. Even if you’re not sure you’re ready.
  2. Once you create it, maintenance is minimal. Which is the real benefit. Sure, you’ll always be tweaking your offering. But tweaking content is a lot less demanding than working directly with customers all day.
  3. If you’re a service-based business, the only way to scale (without hiring an army of employees) is to start selling products. Knowledge products fit that ticket.

All of which make courses and membership sites so very, very appealing. Even if there is a little work involved.

The Course/Membership Site Dream Destroyers

There’s not much you could say to make us question our enthusiasm for knowledge products. As mentioned, we see them working (and working well) every single day. We know what they mean to our community of business owners. And to us.

Having said that, not everyone’s experience with knowledge products will be positive. Here’s how your experience could be less than awesome:

  1. You might be trying to sell something no one’s interested in buying. We addressed this briefly before; if your target market doesn’t have an interest in your offering, it won’t be profitable. But that doesn’t mean knowledge products have failed you. It simply means you’ve got to do a little more market research.
  2. You don’t, YET, have the marketing chops to make it happen. Again, courses and membership sites are like any other business. If you want to see a profit, you’ve got to promote your offering. Tough news if you don’t have any marketing knowledge. But don’t give up!!! You’ll get it figured out.
  3. Your technology fails you. Not all knowledge platforms are built the same. And we’ve seen some business owners spend upwards of $30,000 and several months getting membership sites created. Sometimes, the lack of progress leads to business owners giving up before their offering is even fully created. Or...they get their site launched, but their offering doesn’t sell quite like they’d hoped. There’s not an easy way to pivot, tweak, or revamp the content so it matches what the demand of your market.

We can’t do much about the first and second problems. The good news is: you can. And fairly easily.

What we can help you with is the last issue.

Why Your Technology Matters

You know that saying “when the technology is created, the opportunities will follow”?

Okay, maybe I made that up. But it perfectly describes why we’re seeing such a rapid emergence of online courses and membership sites.

With the right technology, anyone can successfully create a course or membership site. Because you don’t need a full team of tech-savvy people making it happen. You don’t need a videographer - you can film yourself from your phone. You don’t need a graphic designer - you can design your pdfs with Canva templates. And you don’t need a Wordpress expert (who charges $10,000+) to get your site created.

If your course or membership site is easy enough to use, you can easily add (or remove) content. You can change direction with a few small tweaks. You can manage any number of customers.

So why are we still reading the horror stories?

Because what is possible - the technology that’s now available - is still new. Would-be course creators simply assume this is the price of course creation.

Well, now you know. Technology should never be the holdup in your efforts to grow a course or membership site. The circumstances are right. The technology exists. If you’ve got the desire, a profitable course or membership site is within your grasp.

And that is the “truth” about membership sites.

So what’s your next step? How about exploring the type of technology I just mentioned?

Give CustomerHub a test drive today.

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